In 2009, the federal stimulus law required nearly 6,000 hospitals and over 500,000 doctors in the U.S. to have health information technology systems and e-health records. Those that did not would be subject to Medicare reimbursement penalties. However, a recent study by the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute found there could be many e-health records that have “significant missing data” for patients who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or depression.

The study examined the records for over 5,500 patients who were assigned to Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates for primary care and who were covered by Harvard Pilgrim health insurance. Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates was one of the first to implement e-health records.

The primary investigator said, “This is not about Harvard Vanguard.” She also said that in over six years since the e-health records were started, the data-sharing hasn’t improved much.

The study results found that nearly 90 percent of acute psychiatric services from hospitals were not included and about 25 percent of bipolar and depression diagnoses were not recorded in the patients’ e-health records. The study wants to advise physicians to be “fully cognizant of the information gaps and disconnects that lie behind the screen.”

A previous study that concentrated on malpractice filings found 147 cases where incomplete or inaccurate e-health records contributed to harm suffered by the patient. Forty-six of those patients died.

Improvements in the e-health system might be possible if insurers not only share their claims data with physicians and e-health systems, but also “patient-driven data-sharing mechanisms.”

E-health records are another area that patients must be aware of when dealing with the medical industry. If those records are not complete or are inaccurate, patients could suffer injury, illness or death due to a lack of information. For example, a medication error could happen if the e-health record did not contain information about a patient being allergic to a medication that was given to him or her.

If you feel that your incomplete e-health record has contributed to a lack of proper medical care, you may find the advice and guidance of a medical malpractice attorney very beneficial.

Source:, “Study cautions e-health records may feature important gaps,” Andy Metzger, April 14, 2016